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Apr 5, 2004  •  Post A Comment

There’s a new major network affiliate in South Florida.
Not really, but that’s how a consortium of cable franchises is billing itself to the advertising community.
Theresa Fletcher, area VP of Comcast Spotlight, which represents almost all the major cable operators in the region, said her company’s unified sales approach presents major benefits to advertisers and operators alike. “The spot business used to require an advertiser to contact eight different companies,” Ms. Fletcher said. Thanks to Comcast Spotlight, a creative interconnect that includes Comcast, Adelphia, Charter, Advanced Communications and a few smaller franchises, “Sponsors have to make only one buy and there is only one invoice,” she said
Using Comcast Spotlight, advertisers can reach more than 1 million subs with each ad buy. “We are the same as any other TV station within the market-identical to the ABC, CBS and NBC stations,” Ms. Fletcher said. “Cumulatively, we far outreach any of the network affiliates.”
The consortium offers prospective sponsors the best of all worlds, especially in a region as diverse as South Florida, where Hispanics are approaching majority status and Spanish-language broadcast station WLTV has been the market’s ratings leader for the past few years.
A national or regional advertiser can buy the entire market with a single call. Mom-and-pop businesses, which target specific neighborhoods, can do that too.
Prospective sponsors whose businesses rely on the Spanish-speaking population can gear their campaigns to systems within Hispanic enclaves, such as the Little Havana area of Miami and Hialeah, Fla. It’s also possible to run spots in English in some zones and in Spanish in others.
Comcast Spotlight’s central office in Miramar, a northern suburb of Miami, handles the regional business with a staff of four. Five satellite offices, spread from the Florida Keys to South Beach to greater Fort Lauderdale, handle the local accounts.
“The local share is huge,” Ms. Fletcher said. The exact breakdown is proprietary, she said, but the ratio is approximately 2-to-1 local.
The sales force is aggressive. The latest Comcast Spotlight campaign includes use of some local avails for solicitation of prospective advertisers who might not have thought of a cable buy. A key to this effort is a comparison against the efficiency of newspapers and radio, which can’t target customers by zone as effectively as cable, if at all.
Even in terms of sales technique, the interconnect functions like a network or station, generously entertaining clients. “We’re constantly [doing that],” Ms. Fletcher said. “We have a suite for the [Miami] Dolphins, and we buy tickets for all the other teams. We also take them on trips.”
In addition, Comcast Spotlight takes its message to the street via billboards as well as bus wraps.
These efforts have proven productive, said Ms. Fletcher. Also, monitors watch the traditional broadcast stations “like hawks,” she said. They make note of which businesses and companies, national and local, are advertising in specific genre programs, such as news, sports and children, then swoop in with a sales pitch for cable.
For example, an advertiser who buys time on the “CBS Evening News With Dan Rather” would be solicited with avails across the CNN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel landscape. “We offer them an unduplicated market,” Ms. Fletcher said.
An advertiser in a Dolphins or Florida Marlins broadcast, for instance, would be approached about buying time in cable telecasts of the NHL Panthers and NBA Heat.
Advertisers with limited budgets can opt for less pricey alternatives. The billing of the least expensive opportunities, dubbed “run of the station,” reiterates the way Comcast Spotlight presents itself as another channel in the market.
The significant disadvantage Comcast Spotlight has in relation to broadcast is the relative dearth of opportunities. “There might be 12 to 16 minutes of commercial availabilities per hour on a broadcast network,” Ms. Fletcher said. “We get only two minutes from most cable networks.” In some circumstances, specific cable networks might bump this up to three minutes, but it doesn’t go higher than that.
While the local market is substantial it is also volatile. “The churn is huge,” Ms. Fletcher said.